Profile on Poppy Riddle

Poppy Riddle is a doctoral student in the Dalhousie Interdisciplinary PhD (IDPhD) program where she combines her interests in library and information science (LIS) and human-computer interaction (HCI). This profile highlights the extension of Poppy’s thesis research in the Master of Information (MI) program into her PhD research, current projects she is working on, and her experience working in the QSS lab!

Poppy, what was your MI thesis topic? What interested you in the subject and inspired you to dive deeper?

My thesis looked at how keywords from peer-reviewed articles might be useful to compare two search terms during the exploratory search phase. I used a visualization to show how the keywords overlap in two search results. At the time, this was just a static visualization and a demonstration of the concept. However, I’m still working towards making this a working application to be used in a user study.

There was an article I read by Devon Greyson on ignorance and a call to revive agnatology as part of a reflective process on what information we include, exclude, or don’t know about. As the search interfaces we use in libraries return list based results, I can’t really see what I’m missing or I don’t know about. Coming from an art and design background, I’m used to using visual tools to explore and gain knowledge about complex things. What if our ability to search in libraries was augmented by a visual mode for exploration? Would I be able to be more aware of what articles or books I’m choosing and not choosing?

How has your thinking and research evolved since you began the IDPhD program? What are the different research projects you are working on and what are you most looking forward to digging into more over the course of your doctoral degree?

So, it turns out this is a much deeper problem and I’m learning so much in the PhD program about how other fields can inform and shape this problem. I’m working in both LIS and HCI fields right now and both are highly interdisciplinary. I’m learning cognitive science concepts, theories of cognition and emotion, ethnographic methods, user interface design and evaluation methods, natural language processing, virtual and augmented reality, immersive visualization and analytics, and of course more explorations in coding and the technical aspects of creating prototype applications. All of these, (just in my first year) are shaping, guiding, and clarifying my desire for a visual search interface.

I’ve been working on a quite a wide range of research from investigating open access and institutional repositories, LIS research in Canadian institutions, learning more about the OpenAlex database and mapping its contents, designing and learning to create applications, virtual reality authentication using graphical passwords, and contributing to course development in bibliometrics and data science. As varied as they seem, there is a thread joins all this together, albeit a very long one! However, despite all I’m learning, I’m really exicted for next year as I’ll be able to focus on my research and making visual search interfaces!

Congratulations on receiving the CARL research grant! Could you tell us a bit about the project you are working on?

The CARL research grant was awarded based on my masters thesis and the gap in understanding how visual metaphors of graphs, charts, maps, or networks affect viewers. This project is still being shaped by what I’m learning in coursework and the technical challenges of creating different ways of representing the data. I’m anticipating running the study in the summer.

What do you enjoy most about LIS/HCI?

HCI is a great overlap between my prior education in design and LIS, though HCI goes deep into the user research theory and methods. I find this both satisfying and daunting! I think there is also a good complement between HCI and LIS in theories and methods that are unique to each, but may cross over well. For example, cognition theories that HCI borrows from cognitive science may help LIS researchers understand how technological systems are shaping the perception and decision making of library patrons. Conversely, HCI seems to lack the critical perspectives that LIS brings to address social inequities and would benefit from reflective practices in identifying how design processes, theories, contexts, etc are continuing to enable inequalities and bias.

Finally, what are your favourite parts about QSS Lab?

The people! Perhaps its our curiosity, our shared ability to geek about anything, or how satisfying it is to hear about other’s successes. Its such a wonderfully supportive community. Second, I really like the breadth of our research topics. There’s technical work, (which can be really deep and satisfying), and there’s critical work of deconstructing, (which can be personally rewarding), and topics that genuinely interest me as well as those that are surprisingly interesting! ( I think anything can be interesting if you ask the right questions.)

Compared with prior professional experience, our QSS group and SIM as a whole are quite unique. There is a real chemistry at work that support collaboration, thoughtfulness, critical thinking, and communal goodwill. So, its quite unique and special in my opinion. I plan on being here for quite some time, thank you very much.

Philippe Mongeon
Philippe Mongeon
Assistant Professor, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University